Detailed Look at What the Cardinals Are Getting in Andrew Miller

Our Chris Hrabe went deep into the numbers, the projections and the sabermetrics of St. Louis' new left-hander.

Chris Hrabe
December 26, 2018 - 2:57 pm
Cleveland Indians relief pitcher Andrew Miller

(David Richard - USA Today Images)

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ST. LOUIS (KMOX) - On Friday the St. Louis Cardinals made it official, signing Andrew Miller left handed reliever, free agent and All Star to a two-year contract with a vesting option for 2021.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed but multiple reports say it's worth $25 million over the next two seasons.

Miller is 33-years-old and will turn 34 in May. His past, especially in the postseason, is well documented with an incredible amount of success that helped Cleveland get to the World Series against the Chicago Cubs in 2016 . Miller was named the MVP of the American League Championship Series that year.

Related story: Miller Not Bent on Closing, Just Wants World Series in St. Louis

And in his postseason career, through 19.1 innings, striking out 30 walking only five, and posting a 1.40 ERA Ray in 10 appearances. Last year he was injury plagued, making three trips to the disabled list. He threw just 34 innings, posting a 4.24 ERA and struck out 45.

Despite the struggles, left-handers still hit only .227 against Miller with a .306 on-base percentage and a .250 slugging percentage.

Mozeliak says the Cardinals of course did their due diligence and Miller says:

“There's no doubt that the injuries I had last year were all a pattern of me trying to figure out my mechanics and work with my knee and like I said, it was a grind … I think we figured it out, I think I have all the confidence in the world that were going to get better.

“Part of the sales just from the Cardinal was confidence they have in working with me and that was really important to me and I'm excited to get to work with their medical and training staffs. And you know really be on top of it, but my concern is being the pitcher I am and not the health side of things.”

So just how dominant has Miller been over the last five years?

From 2014 to 2018, Miller struck out 14.22 batters per nine innings, fifth best among all MLB relief pitchers. His 5.61 strikeout to walk ratio was seventh best among relievers. His ERA, fourth best, 2.01

His fielding independent pitching (FiP) nearly identical, 2.02 and second best among relievers behind only Aroldis Chapman. FiP basically tells you what a player's ERA would be over a given period of time if that pitcher had league-average defense, league-average results on batted balls in play, and league-average timing. Miller’s is nearly identical.

According to FanGraphs, 10 wins above replacement (WAR) over the last five years for Miller, fourth best among relievers behind just Dellin Betances, the aforementioned Chapman and Kenley Jansen.

And opposing hitters don't make contact. A contact rate of 64.5 percent, fifth best among MLB relievers over the last five years and only 43.2 percent of the time do hitters make contact with balls outside of the strike zone. That's second best in baseball.

So as Miller says injury concerns are behind him and he's put together a plan to come into the 2019 season.

From 2014 through 2017, Miller was one of the two or three best big-league relievers over that four-year time frame. Certainly a lot has been made about Cleveland's usage of Miller and how that may have contributed to last season. So let's put age and workload in perspective with two of the closest comparables we can find.

As I told you earlier the 33-year-old Miller will turn 34 in May, over his big league career he's thrown 725 regular season innings. Last year's Cardinals closer Bud Norris is two months older than Miller. He has 1221 regular season innings pitched, Miller has 725 regular season innings pitched. Wade Davis 33-years-old, last year one of the prizes of the free agent relief market, a former Chicago Cub and Kansas City Royal who has had incredible success in the postseason and landed with the Colorado Rockies. The 33-year-old Davis, the same age as Miller, has 900 regular season endings, 175 more than Miller.

So Miller converted from early career starter to now dominant reliever may not have as much mileage as perceived. And while numbers are one thing Miller says his eyes are focused on something bigger.

“The goal is to win the World Series,” Miller says. “My goal is to be one of the 25 guys jumping on top of each other at the end of the year and I wouldn't play anywhere that I didn't think that was realistic.”

Mozeliak says Miller's role will be high leverage. Miller says he doesn't mind, Mike Shildt must be excited.

But no matter the role, no matter the label there is one thing the Cardinals hope Miller will be and that is dominant. Exactly what he's been over the last half decade.